Don’t Talk Like A Robot

When giving a speech, it helps to sound like a human
When giving a speech, it helps to sound like a human
Image Credit: Mark Strozier

So there I was last week working with one of my speaking clients. He had just gotten done giving a speech and he had hurried back to me to get some feedback on how he had done. I told him quite truthfully that he had done a very good job. But. It was that “but” that caught his attention. There had been something that was just a little bit off that had caught my attention during his speech. I racked my brain trying to determine what it was. All of sudden I had it, he had spoken like a robot!

How We Can End Up Sounding Like A Robot

What makes a good speech? It turns out that the answer to this question is based on the importance of public speaking and therefore is a bit more complicated than we might initially think. Yes, I think that we can all agree that there are number of different areas that can contribute to making a speech a good speech. These have to do with body language, vocal quality, eye contact etc. However, as my student showed me, you can get all of these things right and still not connect with your audience.

In order to make an impression on your audience you need to be able to reach out and really make an impact on them. This is exactly the thing that was not happening when my student gave his speech. At first I was puzzled, I mean on the surface he was doing everything correctly. There were no glaring mistakes that would have taken the audience’s attention away from the message that he was trying to present. However, that connection with the audience just wasn’t happening. Something was wrong here.

As I studied the presentation that was happening before me, I tried to determine what was going wrong. It took a bit of time, but eventually I determined that the issue was that something was missing. There was some key element of a speech that can connect with an audience that just was not happening in my student’s speech. Now all I had to do was find out what was not there.

How To Avoid Sounding Like A Robot

As I listened to my student deliver his speech, I was struck by how perfect his speech sounded. He was getting every word correct and the words were flowing smoothly from him. No notes were being used and he never seemed to have to pause in order to think about what he wanted to say next. Dare I say it – it was very much like watching a robot give a speech.

It turns out that nobody wants to watch a robot give a speech. What we want is to watch speeches that are given by people like us. Real people. People who make mistakes, but who keep on trying. It’s almost as though when we are watching a speech we like to imagine ourselves up there doing the talking. After his speech was over, I talked with my student in order to determine how he had prepared for this speech. He revealed to me that he had written the speech out word-for-word and then memorized it. It turns out that that was why his speech had sounded so perfect – he was speaking a written speech.

It turns out that if we memorize a speech word-for-word then we are going to lose a lot of what makes a speech memorable. As I watched my student give his presentation what was missing was all of those human things. Pauses, thinking up things to add to your speech on the fly, those things that you just can’t plan. When you have memorized your speech, they are removed from your speech. This means that you’ll end up presenting a very polished speech that in the end will come across as being unnatural to your audience.

What All Of This Means For You

One of my speaking students gave a great speech. Well, it was a very good speech. It had one very big problem – he had come across to me while he was giving his speech as being a robot. This meant that his audience had missed out on the benefits of public speaking. I needed to find out what was going on – how had this happened?

When I spoke with my student in order to find out more about how he had prepared to deliver the speech that he had just completed, he revealed his preparation technique to me. It turns out that he had written his speech out word-for-word. He then memorized the speech. The end result was that when he delivered it, he was too good – he came across slick and smooth and very much not human. More like a robot.

I worked with him to see what we could do to fix this problem. For his next speech, instead of writing the whole speech out word-for-word, I had him just jot down some bullet points. I then had him deliver his speech using these bullet points. Every time he gave the speech it was a little bit different. He did a much better job this time around – he came across as being human!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How many times do you think that you should practice giving a speech before you deliver it?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I can only speak for myself, but I become a lot more nervous when I am asked to come and speak to a group of young, pre-high school, kids. I’m not quite sure why this is – perhaps it’s because I don’t believe that they know about importance of public speaking and will be willing to follow the “rules” that my adult audiences do. You know what I’m talking about: they can turn out to be unpredictable, demanding, and boisterous. All too often the young audiences that I talk to have to be there – they are not there because they want to be. Talk about a tough crowd!